The scene is eerily familiar: Rising water levels edge upward, flooding businesses and homes, cars and schools, in what has historically been a hard-hit state. Parents huddle next to their children on rooftops trying to escape the water, pets in tow. People swim to be rescued by boats, which have become a sign of salvation.

It was 11 years ago this month that Hurricane Katrina slammed Louisiana, sending its residents into a state of shock. Now, last week, a storm with no name has rendered similar results, caused major flooding in at least 30 parishes in the state, leading to the declaration of a national state of emergency. According to the American Red Cross, last weekís flooding, caused by unprecedented rainfall, killed at least 11 people and displaced more than 10,000 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and surrounding areas.

As a reporter who covered the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the images caused flashbacks: The sight of water lines still visible on structures in New Orleans, months after the waters had receded, the gutted homes as people attempted to rebuild, the tall piles of ruined sofas, mattresses, moldy refuse thrown out on the street. The odor of what happens to a home after the waters recede ó the smell of wet wood, mold and death ó is still marked in my mind.
The photos posted this week on social media hit hard: Coffins floating down flooded streets ... dogs swimming, their heads barely above water, trying to reach dry land ... a mother with her arms wrapped around her small, wet child.

I know what itís like to be hit by a natural disaster, to wake up in a hotel room because your home is not safe. I still remember stumbling on my own words as I tried to explain to my 2-year-old daughter in 2011 why we werenít home, and how a tornado had wreaked havoc on our beloved town and neighborhood. Although we didnít lose nearly what others did ó our home was saved ó I remember the shock and numbness that can follow natural disasters. I know what itís like to have your life turned upside down and wonder if things will ever be the same.

But I also know the light at the end of the tunnel. Iíve witnessed first-hand, both after Hurricane Katrina and after the EF4 tornado that struck Tuscaloosa in 2011, that the darkest events often bring out the best in people. Racial and economic barriers fall, political or religious differences are rendered meaningless as people reach out to help, to make a difference. Whether itís delivering bottled water and warm meals, sorting through debris or donating clothes and other goods, I know how Americans ó especially us Southerners ó reach out to help in times of crisis. The bad often brings out so much good.

To those affected by these floods, our hearts and prayers go out to you. I know recovering from so much loss is daunting, but I promise that normal life will return. The journey may be long and it will not be easy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

ó Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at lydia.seabolavant@tuscaloosanews.com.